Posts Tagged With: Amazon

Self Publishing: September

Self Publishing Update

Well, I had a much better September than I did an August.  I realized after reviewing the data for my August ads that I was getting many more hits on keywords that tied to authors or book series that were similar to my book, instead of tags like “fantasy,” or “sword.” I also upped my bid on each keyword to be $0.76 instead of $0.66.  For some reason, that made all the difference.  Instead of being in the hundreds of views, I’m now in the tens of thousands of views and I can make some decisions based on actual aggregated data.  Amazing!

My first ad (runaway and subversive print shop copy) didn’t do so well.  People were clicking (31 of them), but no one was buying.  I actually ended this campaign early since it had cost me almost $15 and had brought me no book sales.  It seemed a waste to keep running it.

My second ad (epic fantasy with a strong female lead copy) did fairly well.  I had 42 clicks and sold 3 books.  Since almost 80,000 people saw my ad before clicking this is the data I was able to get: someone would click through to my page after about 1850 people had viewed the ad. Once people viewed the book, about 11 people visited for every one person who bought.

This isn’t great.  Most click-throughs cost me about $0.50, which means that I need my numbers to be more like 5 click-throughs for every buy to just break even.  I’m getting closer to that on my third ad.

Ad number three (LOTR/Little Women mashup copy) is almost where I’d like it to be.  I had 58 click-throughs and sold 8 books.  81,000 people viewed the ad, and so I’m looking at about 1400 people to visit before I get a click-through, and 7 people to look at the page before I get a sale.  Still not where I want to be, but MUCH closer.

I’m rejiggering a few things, per normal.  First of all, I’m only running ads 2 and 3 this month.  I’ve added keywords, too: Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown, Jessica Day George, Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted, His Dark Materials, Narnia, and CS Lewis.

Second, I have changed my book blurb to be a little more punchy.  We’ll see if that works out to equal more clicks.  The great thing about self-publishing is that I can change it all back if the other was working better.  Nice.

Lastly, I put up an ask for my friends who have read the book to please leave me a review.  I ran the free promotion almost two months ago, so I feel like people have probably finished the book and maybe just haven’t remembered to review? We’ll see if that’s actually a thing.  Over 100 people downloaded the book, and right now I have 5 reviews, so either people take a really long time to finish things or most people aren’t review-leavers, or they forgot.  We’ll see…

That’s all for this month.  I’ll report back on how that all did next month per usual.  I have modest goals.  I’d really love to have 7-10 reviews by the end of the month, sell more than 11 books, and have a better click-through to buy rate on both ads.

I hope this helps!

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Self Publishing: The First Month – Amazon Ads

Self Publishing Update

So, I’ve now been the self-published author of a novel for a month.  Aside from the free promotion, I haven’t done anything except run ads via the Amazon system.  I feel like I’ve learned something? Maybe?

I think the book is doing pretty well, actually, for being a first novel in a genre that doesn’t typically sell in the indie market.  And for being a book with only four reviews.

I have sold 4 books since I ended the free promotion.  3 of those were hard copy and another 1 was a Kindle copy.  Kindle copies are where I make my money, so it was nice to have one.  The profit margin on the print book is slim (although not nothing, and I’m not really in this for the money anyway at this point).

I also had several Kindle Unlimited pages read, though that’s also hard to break down.  The reports tell me how many pages, since I get paid by the page.  But is it the same people re-picking up the book, or is it new readers?  We’ll never know…

My ads haven’t been working okay.  I’ve never written copy before, nor do I have any experience with advertising, so I’m being gentle with myself about it.  I’ll be rejiggering the ads today to make them better.

You may already know this, but with Kindle ads, you bid on a keyword.  If you’ve bid the most, whenever someone visits a book that’s classified under that keyword, they see your ad.  You pay if they click on it, otherwise it’s free.

I currently have 4 ads running.  On the first, I let Amazon pick my keywords. Hardly anyone has seen the book on this one – about 74.  On two other ads, I have about 450 people who have viewed it, but only one person on each ad has clicked on the ad and the report estimates I haven’t had any sales.  They don’t take Kindle Unlimited into account, though, so I think this might be where I’m getting some of those extra Kindle Unlimited pages from. On my third ad, about 650 people have seen it, but no one has clicked.

I ran the same exact keywords for all three ads I set up myself, so I’m not sure why everyone’s seeing the one and not the others.

So, I have two goals this month.  The first is to re-do the book description on the ad so it’s a little more punchy.  The second thing is to pick better keywords.  Right now, the ones I’m getting the most hits on are the names of other authors.  I plan to add in a greater swath of authors who I think write things that are like this book.  I’ll leave the Amazon auto-target ad alone, probably.

That’s a rundown of the basics.  In addition to redoing the ads, I’m considering a blog tour.  Most authors I’ve seen who have done it say they basically break even – they make about as much in book sales as they paid for the tour.  Still, I think it might be worth it for me from a review perspective.  The blog tour I’m considering would have 15 stops, so that would be 19 reviews on the book once I’m done if you add the ones that are already there.  I’d definitely consider buying a book with 19 reviews, where I’d look askance at 4.

That’s mostly all I have to say. For those who want to get into the nitty-gritty with me on the ad portion, I’ll post a little more detail below.

The book descriptions I went with on the ads are as follows:

  1. What do a spy, a runaway, a subversive print shop, and a queen have in common? Blue Gentian. You won’t be able to put this book down. (450-ish views)
  2. “Love at first page!” Looking for something new to read? You just found your next favorite epic fantasy with a strong female lead. (450-ish views)
  3. Traditional fantasy gets a makeover in this epic coming-of-age tale about leaving home to find it. You won’t be able to put this book down! (650-ish views)

I went with these descriptions partly because I read a book that told me that ads with “you” in them tend to do better than ads that don’t.

In this next cycle of ads, I intend to run descriptions 1 and 2, but not 3.  I also intend to run one that says “If Lord of the Rings and Little Women had a baby, Blue Gentian would be it. You’ll love this epic fantasy about leaving home to find it.”

I ran the following Keywords:

action, adventure, caravan, coming of age, council, epic, fantasy, female voice, gentian, healer, intrigue, kwed, little women, low magic, medicine, mission, notlimah, printing, queen, quest, shaman, spy, strong female lead, sword, tolkien, traditional fantasy, travel, travelers, traveling, wise woman, young adult

BY FAR Tolkien got me the most views.  Wise woman, shaman, and travel got me the next most, although I’m not sure travel is really doing for me what I’d like it to do.

This month I’ll add:

Shannon Hale, Le Guin, Dianna Wynne Jones, Chrestomanci, Uprooted, Naomi Novik, Wheel of Time, Rothfuss, Jane Austen, Jeff Wheeler, Veronica Roth, Sarah J. Maas, Harry Potter, Patricia C. Wrede

I may also take out some of the others that are probably deceptive (like travel), although it doesn’t cost me anything to bid unless the ad gets clicked on.  We’ll see where that gets me, and I’ll report back in another month!

Here we go…

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Self Publishing: First Book, First Week

First some housekeeping stuff.  I want to continue posting about how I’m doing with the book and what marketing I’m working on and all of that in service to someone else learning from my experiences, but I also realize that’s not why a lot of people follow this thing.  I’m going to be prefacing the headlines of these types of posts with Self Publishing: so you can ignore them if you’re not all about it.

That being said… here we go!  Week 1 of Blue Gentian was incredibly successful.  130 people downloaded the book for free.  It’s AMAZING that 130 people were interested enough in this thing to check it out. Thank you!

2 things I’ve learned over the last few weeks.

Thing 1: Several friends were asking me if they could actually PAY for the novel.  I wasn’t sure what to do about that, since I wanted to start running the book right out of the gate for free.  Does Amazon give pre-orderers the free price?  I didn’t know. So… it turns out that people who have pre-ordered the book pay for it, even if you run a free promotion on the day of the book’s release.  If you have people who actually want to pay, ask them to pre-order.  You can have your cake and eat it too!

Thing 2: I had originally planned to run a Kindle Free promotion, and then go for a Countdown Deal right after.  It turns out that Amazon won’t let you run those within the same KDP sign up time.  Every 90 days I can run either a Free promotion or a Countdown Deal promotion, but not both.  Boo.  But good to know for planning purposes.

Next we’re on to marketing:

Now that the book costs money, I’m wading into the area of Amazon Ads.  So far I only have Sponsored Product ads out there, and no Product Placement ads.  Product Placement got expensive, guys!  $100 is the minimum spend (yikes!). So, I’ll refine my copy on the cheap stuff and then worry about those costly ads when I have something I know probably works.

I know absolutely nothing about copywriting, and I think it shows… since the free promotion ended I have sold NO books.  I’m not terribly worried yet.  I’m playing the long game with this, not the short one.  I had also heard about this phenomenon.  Since Amazon separates out free from paid, you essentially start out at square one again when the free deal ends.  The internet warned me. But I am downloading copywriting books and faffing around with the copy on my ads now because things can always be improved.  I have five ads running right now, and they all have different descriptions enticing people to buy. We’ll see which ones actually do something.

Once I know I have copy that works, I’ll start faffing with Keywords.  That’s at least a month away, though.  I want to give the ads a chance to work if they’re going to.

Last is the bigger picture:

I’ve been thinking critically about how the book is presented and I realized today that I actually wouldn’t buy it if it came up in my feed as-is.  Everything looks great, but I always want a slew of reviews on my self-published titles to prove that they’re readable.  Right now, that’s the biggest thing I lack.  I’m discussing a possible blog tour because of it, though that’s also probably at least a month away.  I don’t want to be too annoying to my friends and family either, but I’ll also probably do a big social media request for reviews in about a month.  I’ll give everyone some time to read it first, though. And then after that, I’ll knock it off with the “please do this for me?” stuff so my friends don’t start to hate me.

What do I do while waiting for all the ads to aggregate and everything?  Work on my next book, of course!

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Some Self-Publishing Tools

Before I launch into the meat of this post, I have an update on Blue Gentian.  Or, I guess I should say that I’m hoping it won’t be an update but it might be.  Amazon has lost the 2nd Galley of Blue Gentian in the mail, sent it to the BFE, and now they don’t know when it will be here.  “If you haven’t heard by Friday let us know,” they say.  Which is 12 days AFTER my original delivery date.  For which I already waited several days for them to print the thing.

That’s frustrating, but what’s worse is that I may need to postpone publication of the hard copy.  I’m optimistic that my cover will be a good resolution and the insides will look great.  But if they don’t, I’ll need to do another Galley round and God knows when Amazon will get its act together with this one.

Alright, vent finished.  Now to the actual purpose of this post:

I wanted to just mention some tools I’ve been using that make writing, editing, and selling a better process, in case you’re interested.  I’ve been getting a lot of questions now that my book is coming out, and I’m not sure if everyone knows about these.  They basically make my writing life possible.

Firstly, Amazon has a plug-in for Word that’s free to download that makes it AMAZINGLY easy to format your novel for Kindle publication.  I had heard horror stories about getting this to work and was prepared to spend months formatting, but instead it all went like buttah.  I highly recommend, especially because it’s free.

For the writing of the actual novel, I also recommend Scrivener.  It’s a great program that allows you to draft and drag your novel in pieces so you can manage the flow better as you’re writing.  Even better?  It exports into Manuscript Format, so you don’t have to worry about that jazz yourself.  Totally worth the $45 to to have the program forever.  And if you’re a Nanowrimo winner, it’s just half that.  How can you not buy Scrivener at that price?

Editing?  You can’t go wrong with Auto Crit.  Their software is a little pricey – I shell out for the one that’s just under $30 for the month.  But it’s been INVALUABLE in editing the novel.  It recognizes chapters, analyzes your writing based on its genre, and is altogether wonderful for tightening prose, finding repetition and cliche, and making your work a million times better while keeping it your work still.

Lastly, if you are looking for art I recommend Canva to almost everyone I meet.  They have thousands of free templates for you to use,  let you upload your own images, and even offer the paid stuff at only $1 each.  I end up looking beautifully designed for nothing.  They even have Kindle covers ready to go.

I’m sure there are a million other programs that help a lot with this whole Self-Published Author thing but these are the ones I find I’m using constantly.  Good luck on your own journey.

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Oh, Amazon…

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So it turns out that not only is Amazon blocking Hachette (http://online.wsj.com/articles/amazon-hachette-e-book-pricing-battle-continues-1407708761), but they’re trying the same shit with Warner Brothers (http://mashable.com/2014/06/10/hachette-warner-bros-amazon-lego/) and Disney (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/amazon-takes-the-muppets-off-the-shelf/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=tw-nytimesbits&_r=2&). Umm, I don’t know how you expect this to end guys, but I predict that it won’t go well. In addition, Amazon has sent out a letter to all their self-published KDP writers asking them to write to the CEO of Hachette and complain (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/orwell-is-amazons-latest-target-in-battle-against-hachette/). Another really bad idea, I would imagine; even if they had gotten their literary references correct. Amazon is now putting people like me (who just want to read a damn book, or sell a damn book) in the middle of this thing. It’s like running to mommy when the big kid tries to take your lunch money, except that Amazon is supposed to be the mommy in this situation. 

I am shaking my head over here. Also, I’m angry.

Frankly, I don’t care how I get my stuff as long as I get it. I liked the fact that Amazon is easy to use and all in one place; I can click a single button and the thing I’ve ordered arrives. However, all my stuff is no longer in the same place or will arrive reliably. Shannon Hale is with Hachette. Amanda Palmer is with Hachette. JK Rowling and Stephen Colbert are with Hachette. I LOVE the Muppets.  I really don’t like getting dicked around because two giant corporations can’t get it together and make an agreement. I don’t think that Hachette is blameless, but I do think they’ve played the PR game better. And really, for me, the whole thing is about access. I don’t care how Amazon and Hachette resolve this thing, I just want to be able to read what I want to read. I also don’t mind paying a little more for that privilege.

So basically, this post is to say that I’m done. Amazon obviously can’t give me the customer experience I need. I love that Kindle app on my phone, but did you know that Kobo also has a reading app? I downloaded it last night and I already love it. Their prices are not that different from Amazon, and I was able to preorder both Shannon Hale’s “A Wonderlandiful World” and Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” with the click of a single button. It loads faster than the Kindle app, too, and they give me fancy badges for reading stuff! There is also a little green bookmark that goes into your page when you sign out. Next, I’m going to try Powell’s (http://www.powells.com/) or Vroman’s (http://www.vromansbookstore.com/) for all my physical book ordering needs. There is also the fabulous Barnes and Noble, for the large and established factor.  I’m not going without stuff to prove a point I don’t care about, Amazon.  Maybe if you had gotten that George Orwell quote right… (Okay, not even then).

In the mean time, I wish both Amazon and Hachette luck in figuring this whole thing out. Now excuse me while I go enrich Wil Wheaton’s stock in popcorn by buying a huge bowl for myself. I’ve figured out a way to get my books like I want them and I no longer have a stake in the game. Now the travesty can unfold for my amusement.

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Some Thoughts about Amazon

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There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about the Hachette/Amazon/Warner Brothers controversy.  If you’re not up on all of it, this article explains it pretty well: http://recode.net/2014/06/11/codered-amazon-gives-warner-bros-the-hachette-treatment/.  I’ve heard all sorts of different opinions, some claiming that Amazon is a huge conglomerate with a monopoly, some claiming that Hachette, as one of the big five publishers, is a huge conglomerate who gyps writers.  I’d like to add a middle opinion.

The Amazon controversy reminds me of the grocery strike we had in California several years ago.  I don’t think that people need to worry too much about monopolies and access.  I mean, information is always good, I’m glad I know that Amazon is going to be a jerk about carrying those brands so I can start planning now where else I’ll buy them.  But I think Amazon might be doing itself a disservice.  I use Amazon all the time (especially fond of those Kindle daily deals), and it’s really easy to do so.  As of right now, they’re my first choice for buying things.  I sort of expect that to change in the near future, though, if Amazon isn’t carrying the things I want.

The grocery strike was probably ten years ago now.  During the strike, everything that wasn’t a Stater Brothers or a Trader Joe’s was rimmed by an annoying picket line.  The counters were staffed with scabs and the stores were poorly run by people who didn’t care.  I felt massive guilt every time I needed an emergency something and had to cross that picket line.  No matter how nonchalant the people with the signs were, I still felt like I was betraying something fundamental.  My experience inside the stores was also substandard.  Inside was an entire crew of new employees who didn’t understand, were overwhelmed, and couldn’t help me get what I need. So I took my business to Trader Joe’s and I learned that they carry everything from toothbrushes to milk.  It’s years later and I don’t shop much at the regular store anymore – and if I do it’s only because of my addiction to Dove shampoo.  Most of the stores that participated in the strike are out of business.

This is where the Amazon situation applies.  Hachette has some big names under its umbrella.  Warner Brothers has this year’s spring blockbuster with the Lego movie.  It’s not like people are going to just not buy J.K. Rowling’s newest book, not read Steven Colbert, or forgo owning their favorite movie.  It’s not going to happen.  What is going to happen is that people will go elsewhere to buy those things.  Like Indiebound.  Or Barnes and Noble.  Both are great options, and provide excellent service.

I know what you’re going to say. Hachette and Warner Brothers have a big pulpit from which to scream “unfair!” Smaller publishers who don’t have the fame and mouthpiece that the bigger companies do are undoubtedly being forced under Amazon’s thumb.  This is only the beginning of a bigger problem.  I would tell you that this is only true if people just decide that since Amazon doesn’t offer it, they won’t read it.  New avenues of buying books also come with new avenues of discovering books, from small publishers and big.

It feels good to buy books at Indiebound.  Like avoiding the stares from a picket line, like allowing a whole group of booklovers (not corporations) to benefit from my business.  The bonus of that is that these people care about good books and will recommend based on quality not based on who is conforming to the rules they set out arbitrarily.  If people find they’re loving it, Amazon may find that those customers don’t come back.

So what should you do?  Get the books you want wherever you can get them.  Try out booksellers that you haven’t tried before.  Don’t feel too guilty for purchasing that Kindle Daily Deal.  Most importantly: continue to read lots.

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